Book details

A Pair of Wings

A Novel

Author: Carole Hopson

A Pair of Wings

A Pair of Wings

About This Book

A riveting, adventurous novel inspired by the life of pioneer aviatrix Bessie Coleman, a Black woman who learned to fly at the dawn of aviation and found freedom in the air

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Book Details

A riveting, adventurous novel inspired by the life of pioneer aviatrix Bessie Coleman, a Black woman who learned to fly at the dawn of aviation and found freedom in the air

A few years after the Wright brothers’ first flight, Bessie was working the Texas cotton fields with her family when an airplane flew over their heads. It buzzed so low she thought she could catch it in her hands. Bessie was fearless. She knew there was freedom in those wings.

The daughter of a woman born into slavery, Bessie answers the call of the Great Migration. She moves to Chicago, where she wins the backing of two wealthy, powerful Black men—Robert Abbott, creator and publisher of the Chicago Defender, and Jesse Binga, the founder of Chicago’s first Black bank. Abbott becomes her mentor, while Binga becomes her lover. Her true first love, though, remains flying.

But in 1920, no one in the United States will train a Black woman to fly. So, twenty-eight-year-old Bessie learns to speak French and sets off for Europe. Two years ahead of Amelia Earhart, Bessie earns her pilot's license, and later she learns death-defying stunts from French and German dogfighting combat pilots.

While she finds no prejudice in the air, Bessie wrestles with other challenges on the ground. A plane crash nearly kills her, her brothers seem to be crumbling under the weight of Jim Crow, and, while grappling with tough truths about Binga, Bessie begins to wonder if the freedom she finds in the sky means she must otherwise fly solo.

With tenderness and mastery, Carole Hopson imagines the breathtaking moxie Bessie Coleman harnessed in order to lift herself out of poverty and become known as “Queen Bess.”

Imprint Publisher

Henry Holt and Co.



In The News

Named one of Essence's “Top 15 Book Picks For Summer 2024

“Hopson shines a welcome light on her indomitable and unsung heroine, and her technical knowledge enriches the many exhilarating aerial scenes.”
Publishers Weekly

“Invigorating! A Pair of Wings is the inspiring, richly detailed American Great Migration story we’ve been missing. Carole Hopson writes heroine and pioneer Bessie Coleman as if she’s been living inside her head. I loved it.”
—Crystal Smith Paul, author of Did You Hear About Kitty Karr?

“Bessie Coleman was a pioneering aviatrix who, in the early part of the twentieth century, was forced to travel to France to learn to fly, as no one in the U.S. would give a Black woman lessons. Her thrilling true story makes for an exciting, inspiring work of fiction in Hopson’s hands. This may be the author’s first novel, but as a professional pilot herself, she takes the tale and soars with it.”
—Leigh Haber, founding books director of Oprah Daily and former head of Oprah’s Book Club

“For anyone seeking adventure, this novel of Bessie’s life will lift you up, energize you, and inspire you!”
—Eileen Collins, astronaut and coauthor of Through the Glass Ceiling to the Stars

“Hopson captures Coleman’s courage, brilliance, and passion, from Jim Crow Texas to South Side, Chicago, through France and Germany, and back to America for treacherous barnstorming-while-Black. But above it all, there’s flight itself. This book soars!”
—Lorene Cary, author of Ladysitting

“Everyone who believes in aviation’s promise of freedom should know the remarkable story of Bessie Coleman, whose ambition, skills, and courage are brought to life in Carole Hopson’s fascinating and heartrending book.”
—Mark Vanhoenacker, pilot and author of Skyfaring

“Against the backdrop of the heroine's intrepid life, the novel explores the triumphs and trials of a people seizing their independence. Bessie's story inspires the reader to aim for new horizons and will lift your soul long after the story ends.”
—Shaunna J. Edwards, co-author of The Thread Collectors

“Ever wonder what Bessie Coleman's thoughts were as she pioneered her flying journey to become known as the Queen? Carole Hopson's page-turner gives the insight... I promise, you will enjoy the ride... Well done!”
—Vanessa Blacknall-Jamison, Board of Advisors Chairwoman, Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals

“...Riveting... Bessie's story is told in a manner that entertains and captivates...from the first page to the last. Fly with Bessie and come away with an eyewitness account of a staunch trailblazer in aviation.”
—Albert Glenn, 777 Captain (ret.), FedEx and Co-Director, Lt. Col. Luke Weathers Flight Academy

About the Creators

A Pair of Wings

A Pair of Wings